SMEs & local media on the agenda as IAB UK hosts Newcastle roundtable

Posted on Thursday 20 July 2023 | IAB UK

The first in our regional roadshow of roundtables saw Chi Onwurah MP sit down with local business leaders to discuss how digital advertising is supporting SMEs and local media - and how to unlock further growth

The role of digital advertising in helping SMEs and local news providers grow was in the spotlight last week as we brought together business leaders and regional media for a roundtable in Newcastle - the first of a number of nationwide  events being held in 2023.

Chi Onwurah - MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - joined representatives from the council and commerce groups, as well as sales and editorial leads at Reach plc, to debate how all parties can work together to help improve the reciprocal relationship between digital advertising and local businesses - including regional press. 


Keeping the local press free

Onwurah, who has professional background in the tech sector, having worked as Head of Telecoms Technology at Ofcom before joining Parliament and previously serving as Shadow Digital Minister, kicked off the discussion by stressing the importance of regional press: “There are so many great newspapers here in the North East and they all play a really important part in maintaining a vibrant local democracy so it is vital we protect the local media ecosystem. 

“The digital age has brought new challenges to media and we recognise that, but to affect the viability of regional press we have to recognise that it is made up of organisations that are very much businesses in their own right.” 

Communicating to the public how critical digital ads are to the survival of local news media was a core focus of the conversation. The group discussed the changing revenue streams of local publishers, and the extent to which they rely on digital advertising given today’s consumption habits. 

Reshma Begum, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, spoke passionately about the “grassroots businesses, rooted in their communities, who need anchor institutions such as media partners and outlets that understand their individual challenges”. 

And it was the value exchange between advertisers, news outlets and readers that Paul Rowland, Editorial Director of Reach Group, was keen to emphasise. He said: “I want advertisers to spend money with us not out of a sense of charity but because they see the value - but if we aren't able to make our products pay for themselves, we can’t exist. It’s important we make that connection understood.” It was agreed that readers should be made more aware that ads are funding the local journalism they are consuming. 

IAB Roundtable in Newcastle

Supporting SMEs

The education of small business leaders - who may have neither the budget nor expertise to expend on experimenting with marketing techniques - was deemed a priority, with calls for SME programmes giving guidance on how to approach and run digital advertising campaigns. Nick Kemp, leader of Newcastle City Council, committed to laying on education sessions to explain the value and process of digital advertising, as well as to help with copywriting and placement.

He said: “The success of our city’s economic strategy relies on the growth of new businesses and the likelihood is they will almost all have a digital presence, so it is important they see the role of both themselves and regional media in the ecosystem. We all have a role to play in that awareness.” 

Participants agreed that sharing digital advertising success stories and proof points would be a compelling way to convince the estimated 40% of Newcastle’s SMEs that do not have a digital advertising strategy to explore their options. 

IAB Roundtable in Newcastle

Jon Mew, CEO of IAB UK, shared statistics that fed into that success narrative, citing the Advertising Association’s research showing that every pound spent on advertising adds £6 to GDP and Deloitte research finding that SMEs get eight times the sales benefit from each extra pound they spend on advertising than a large business would. He said: “The multiplying effect of that money is clear, so it’s a really important way to help support local areas. If businesses can be encouraged to invest in digital and invest in their local news they will not only grow their business but the local economy too.”

The next roundtable is set to take place in Stoke in September, with Leeds following. 

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